The 2008 Virginia Grown Conference will explore the theme “Planting the Seeds of Change” when it gets underway Jan. 22–24, 2008 at the Hotel Roanoke.

Keeping in mind the needs of tree fruit, small fruit, vegetable, and specialty crop producers as well as direct marketers, organizers have gathered experts in a variety of fields to share their knowledge, outlook and experience to assist farmers who want to diversify and expand their operations.

In order to give attendees an in-depth look at a specific interest area, the conference will offer two tracks with a comprehensive look at topics related to each one. The two tracks are horticultural production and agritourism.

The horticultural production track will examine topics that range from growing cut flowers for farm markets, dealing with major orchard pests, managing weeds, and assessing the effect of Colony Collapse Disorder to fighting stink bugs, preventing diseases on organic apples, raising shiitake mushrooms on oak logs, and controlling fire blight.

The agritourism track will begin with a tour of farms in the area that feature on-farm activities and events that appeal to the public.

The first stop will be Jamisons Orchard which sells select-your-own fruit, fruit butters, applesauce, honey and candy. Next, the tour will visit Johnson’s Orchard and Peaks of Otter Winery where the owners have found success by leading farm tours, inviting visitors to pick and select-their-own fruit, operating an on-farm winery and market, and hosting an annual festival. The last stop, Hickory Hill Vineyards and Winery, attracts guests with their wine selection, wine tasting, gift shop, and picnicking area.

In addition to the tour, those in the agritourism track will hear speakers discuss using agritourism to make a small farm pay, hosting special events on the farm, marketing to changing demographics, providing customer service, and marketing an agritourism operation.

In addition, a panel made up of the farm tour hosts will offer their views on sustaining a farm through agritourism.

Three-day advance registration, which must be postmarked no later than Jan. 9, 2008, is $95 for each attendee. Three-day on-site registration is $125 each. One-day on-site registration is $50 each, but does not include the Wednesday reception or the Thursday buffet breakfast. The charge for the one-day Agritourism Farm Tour is $35.

You can send your name, business name, address, phone, fax and e-mail along with a check payable to Virginia Grown Association, to P.O. Box 2445, Winchester Va. 22604. Advance registrations must be postmarked no later than Jan. 9, 2008.

The Hotel Roanoke is offering a special rate of $84 per night plus taxes for those attending the conference. To receive the special rate, call 1-866-594-4722 no later than Jan. 2, 2008 and be sure to mention that you are attending the Virginia Grown Conference.

If you have questions, call 1-540-667-9101.

The Virginia Grown Conference is presented by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Grown Conference Association, Virginia Horticultural Society, Virginia Farmers Direct Marketing Association, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.